Thursday, 10 July 2008

The Olympics lifts my spirits!

Today I have been down in the dumps and the weather here in sunny London has matched my mood as it has been raining 'stair rods' the entire day. The snails seem happy though and they are treating our garden wall like a motorway - every time I look there are more of them.

The reason for my glumness is two fold. The economic downturn is affecting publishers and they are employing fewer freelance designers for the time being so there is less work around and that's making me a bit anxious because that is the work I do to pay my way. The other reason is that I am in the throes of developing my website to allow on-line shopping (because I am about to launch my small collection of greetings cards onto the paying public) and the technical details I am having to learn is driving me to distraction.

Ordinarily I will clean the house when I come across a problem I can't solve as it helps to work off all my pent up energy and so far this week the top floor of the house is sparkling and the middle floor is looking much better too. By Friday I will be able to open the house to the public since I'll be so proud of its appearance. But by this afternoon this strategy wasn't working so I put on my wet weather gear, left the house looking like a hiker and walked across Victoria Park towards the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. I enjoyed stomping along in the rain and looking in people's front rooms while I walked so this helped to cheer me up.

This museum is the east end outpost of the Victoria and Albert Museum (known simply as the V&A) which is in South Kensington in West London. The collections and exhibitions at the V&A cover the decorative arts whereas the museum in Bethnal Green allegedly focuses on childhood but it always feel rather adult to me. I think it might be quite boring for kids although there are compensating large open spaces plus the building has a good echo so it would be great for yelling and crying and running around.

While I was dripping water all over the floor in the foyer I noticed that there was an exhibition of Olympic posters going back to the start of the modern Olympic movement so I headed for the first floor and was distracted en route by a fantastic railway set. It was in a glass case which would be far too big for a domestic setting (unless you happen to live in a stately home). It included a model of a fictional village with a railway station. There were domestic houses and shops, including a fish and chip shop. One of the houses was dilapidated, the garden was overgrown and it had a skip outside full of rubbish so the house was obviously being renovated, so that was obviously fictional! There were trains ready to pull out of the station and if I had been prepared to put two 20 pence pieces in the slot I could have watched them run round the track. And I wasn't - how mean is that.

This exhibition of Olympic posters that I finally reached has been designed to coincide with the Beijing 2008 games. I was surprised by the number of posters but there have been a lot of summer games, winter games and Paralympic games over the years. The designs of the posters have an important role in defining the character of that particular games they are promoting and I was reminded of the Mexico, Sydney and Athens games as I walked around the exhibition. I was also surprised at how often some cities have hosted the games since 1900 but I wasn't surprised that some of them had to be cancelled because of two World Wars and the Spanish Civil War.

The posters for the Munich games in 1972 were many and varied and they were also poignant because I could remember the massacre that took place at those games. The designs for the Montreal games in 1976 were particularly interesting to me because that was the summer I graduated from art college. I was barely employable when I left college but like most of my peers I found work eventually so I was very interested to see what designers, who were rather senior to me, were working on for those summer games. I wondered how many ideas were binned in the process and if those designers were subject to the whims of their clients and had to make endless changes to their work in the same way that has been a feature of my own working life. Shortly afterwards I finished my tour and I felt quite cheered up and walked back into the rain with a lighter heart.


Jacqui said...

Ohhh....I would be have been one of those people who put at least 2 20p's in the display as I love watching really good railway models chugging along.

Wish I had been in the rain with you. We only had one day of prolonged rain whilst we were in Scotland although it showered almost every other day.

I love walking in the rain. When it rained I would put on my oil skin jacket, pull the hood and take the dog for a long walk. Believe it or not, I would be heaven, listening to the rain battering against my hood and just looking around me at the country side. Spike, our golden retriever, was in heaven too, the wetter the better I think

Marta Szabo, Curator said...

Loved this description of a day. Reminded me of my walks through Hyde Park, all day, every day, looking at colors and weeds and bare branches against the sky -- I'd just quit my job and was living off my credit card for a couple months. Started water colors...20 years ago now! Anyway, a great piece of writing, Heather! Beautiful.

Heather said...

Thank you both. The weather's been quite nice since last week. ;)